This is a historic consecration for Finland. Already crowned three times at the World Championships (1995, 2011, 2019), the Nordic team has finally put its name on the Olympic list. Sunday, during the last final of the Beijing Olympics, the Finns dominated Russia (2-1).
Defending champions, the Russians had opened the scoring with their first numerical superiority thanks to Grigorenko (8th) while the Finns were unable to convert their power-play situation. In the second period, the equalizer came from a long-distance shot by Ville Pokka which deceived a masked Fedotov (24th). The match definitely changed from the first seconds of the third period on a shot from Bjorninen (41st).
This goal was enough to offer a historic gold medal to Finland, which had so far lost its only Olympic final (2006). Since then, she had also won bronze in 2010 and 2014.
Goalkeeper Harri Sateri brilliant in final stage
Is it therefore a surprise to see the Finns golden? Not really because the Suomis had this experience of default: the one that makes you have to play without your best players. Finland had been world champion in 2019 with mainly players from Liiga, its elite Championship. At his head? The same Jukka Jalonen, this coach who had thought of this world champion team down to the smallest detail. “I only had very few NHL players and a lot of KHL players. (Russian league) wanted to rest as their season started in July. I know the Liiga, I know their players well. We were looking for that: players who could blend into a team. »
In 2019, the Finns realized they could win without their NHL stars like Sebastian Aho or Alexander Barkov. Two years later, Jukka Jalonen shaped his squad by adding touches of individuality that could help make the difference in a necessarily tight final phase between a few teams (Russia, Sweden, Finland): Sakarin Manninen, pocket striker ( 1.72 m) but so thin and so fast on the ice, and also the goalie Harri Sateri, brilliant with Novosibirsk in KHL in the year and inevitably remarkable during this fortnight. He only conceded two goals in the quarter, semi and final (i.e. 97.46% saves in the final phase, a huge performance for a goalkeeper).
Jukka Jalonen in the bars of assistant captain Atte Ohtamaa. (B. Snyder/Reuters)
The Finnish collective was unshakeable during these Olympics, with a strength of character that allowed it to heal its few weaknesses that appeared. The pool match against enemy neighbours, the Swedes, was proof of this. Led 3-0 halfway through the match, the Finns gradually made up for their delay in a bitter encounter where each contact close to the balustrade made the plexiglass vibrate, where each puck frozen by the goalkeeper ended up in a scrum of players, before ‘Harri Pesonen closes the proceedings with a goal in overtime (4-3).
Expected jubilation for the heroes
After the medal ceremony, the Finnish captain Valtteri Filppula recalled that this title was “something very strong” for his country and paid tribute to his coach Jukka Jalonen, marking his record at the head of the national team with two world titles (2011 and 2019) and a silver medal last season in addition to a bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. “The numbers speak for themselves, don’t they? He has built a game system that has proven itself. He has enormous experience and he also knows how to reassure us when necessary. »
Two years ago, 50,000 people welcomed the heroes of Slovakia to Helsinki. There will undoubtedly be many more of them in a few days to celebrate this unprecedented gold.